EU backs down on airline carbon tax

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“We view this as a cash grab,” said Jean Medina, spokeswoman for Airlines for America. “This scheme does not require countries to use monies collected for environmental purposes. They can do whatever they want with it.”

Airlines for America estimated that the ETS, if applied, would cost the nation’s airlines and passengers more than $3 billion by 2020. Because the ETS could still be enforced in the future, Ms. Medina said the legislation from Congress was crucial.

The inclusion of international flights in the ETS last year sparked opposition from Europe’s allies and trading partners. Europe’s ETS required the airline industry to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 3 percent in 2012 and 5 percent in 2013, based on an average of emissions from 2004 to 2006. Heavy polluters would have to purchase “credits” in order to exceed their quota. Carriers initially would receive 85 percent of their emissions certificates free of charge but would have to bid for the rest.

In December, the EU’s top court upheld the program. The first payments from international flights would have been due in April.

Earthjustice was among a coalition of U.S. environmental groups supporting the EU program. Sarah Burt, an attorney for the nonprofit, said she thought it was “very unlikely” a plan could be implemented by the “slow-moving body” of the ICAO before next year.

“I hope that they are right and we see some progress to a global solution by ICAO,” she said, “If not, I hope Europe does what they say they will do and reinstates the emissions trading system for airlines entering and departing the EU.”

But Mr. Flint said the EU recanted the tax because their hands were tied. “You had a very difficult situation, and I think to their credit the EU realized that.”

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